Bus Business Stoppage Finds a Solution

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Collaborative community advocacy does work! A frustrating bus conundrum problem has been solved thanks to community outreach and the power of the press.

For several of the 30 business owners on Rockaway Beach Boulevard, (RBB) between Beach 86th and Beach 90 Streets, it seemed like the holiday boom turned into a bust, when the MTA started interrupting the block with temporary A-train shuttle bus service the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Due to construction work on the A-train line, the MTA was running these buses from Beach 90th Street to Mott Avenue. This left storefronts being blocked by a long line of congregating buses, some waiting idly for hours for passengers, and making parking even more limited and problems more prevalent.

Rockaway Beach Bakery proprietor Tracey Obolsky was the first to voice her concerns to The Rockaway Times (RT). She said, “These shuttle buses are a nuisance. First they ran only on weekends, and all of a sudden they were running seven days a week. We were told that this would continue until December 22! Many of us are mom-and-pop shops, and can’t afford that. My customers aren’t coming in as before. Usually by 4 p.m., I literally have the bare minimum of baked goods left on the counter, now it’s the complete opposite. Many of us business owners are feeling the effect of significantly reduced sales and services since the MTA shuttle buses began congregating here. Also with the number of people waiting on the bus to get to Mott Avenue, we see fights breaking out, people defecating on the side streets and folks leaving so much garbage behind. I feel like I spend most of the day cleaning the outside of the bakery than servicing my customers, who aren’t coming in since this MTA mess started.”

Obolsky wasn’t the only one to fell the burden of the buses. Twenty-eight businesses are housed on this strip, and many expressed their complaints. Phil Cicia, proprietor of Beer House Beverages, said, “It’s been terrible since the shuttles buses started operating here. My deliveries are being affected, as the drivers can’t find parking with all these buses. They even added signs indicated vehicles will be towed if they even manage to find a space to park here. I think the only businesses on this strip making money are those selling ‘loosies’ (single cigarettes) to people waiting to board the buses. Not to mention, the added congestion caused by the SBS buses and the regular local Q52 and Q22 buses, just make it all the more crazy. We’ve tried calling 311 to make complaints, but so far, nothing’s changed.”

Dave Khamaraj of Dave’s Liquor said, “This is supposed to be our busy season, and it’s the opposite. I personally have seen a 20 percent reduction in sales volume since the shuttle bus service started.”

After listening to many of these local business owners’ concerns, the RT reached out to the MTA, DOT, and local political leaders, Councilman Eric Ulrich and Assemblywoman Stacy Pheffer Amato as to what can be done to mitigate the situation. The RT emphasized that commuters need to be able to get to their destination safely, and in a timely manner, but asked what could be done to mitigate the interference caused by the shuttle buses to these business owners.

Both Amato and Ulrich immediately responded and said they were going to look into the matter, and see what could be done as soon as possible. Just an hour before RT’s deadline, the MTA press person responded, “The closure of sections of Rockaway Freeway had necessitated the temporary shuttle buses that are scheduled to stop running before Christmas to lay over on RBB. However, unauthorized automobile parking in the designated bus layover areas has made it necessary to relocate the temporary buses to Holland Street. We have begun implementing this relocation today. We will continue to work with the DOT and NYPD to ensure the best bus operation for our customers and the surrounding community.”

So as of Wednesday, the MTA shuttles buses will now be re-rerouted to Holland Avenue, and now businesses on RBB will be able to regain some normalcy. Community advocacy works! Keep reaching out to the RT.

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